In a visual age, copywriting may seem to have become a downgraded part of the creative process, and yet in many ways it should now be even more central. The need to present your product or service as succinctly as possible is crucial in today’s marketing environment. Twitter’s 140 characters are, after all, what copywriters have been doing for decades – distilling compelling and interesting messages into snappy soundbites. And with attention spans ever shorter, the copywriter’s art is indispensable.
Why then are there so many examples of sloppily written ads and websites? It’s a commonplace that the explosion of texting has impoverished people’s ability to spell and use grammar meaningfully. The texts of the juror who recently contacted the defendant is a good example of that. Her main crime may have been contempt for the English language.
But it’s not just jurors who are guilty. An advertisement in a national paper for a well-known digital TV channel recently carried a glaring spelling mistake in the headline. Does this matter? The old saw goes that a sign saying Tomato’s 80p a kilo will be more effective than a correctly spelt sign offering the same produce for £1.50 a kilo. Of course, the spelling skills of a market trader do not have a bearing on the quality of his goods and, let’s face it, copywriters take plenty of liberties with grammar. Like having sentences with no verbs. However there are occasions when bad copy will seriously damage your business. I recently received an e-shot from an education company with a spelling mistake in it. Bad enough that it obviously went out to their entire prospective client database. Even worse that, on visiting their website, I found loads more errors and spelling mistakes. Do I want to learn with a company that can’t even check its own output? Or worse still doesn’t even realize there are errors? I suppose since certain exam setters can’t be bothered to check whether questions are actually answerable perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.
A part of the problem is the belief that everyone can do anything, no doubt inspired by reality TV shows such as The Apprentice and Britain’s Got Talent in which people without talent or noticeable business acumen are encouraged to think otherwise. So similarly loads of people think anyone can write copy or design marketing material when the truth is you risk seriously spoiling your ship for a ha’porth of tar. And it really is a ha’porth compared to some of the expenses, from legal advice to office refurbishment, which many businesses pay without batting an eyelid.
Of course investing in copywriting expertise doesn’t just mean avoiding howlers. That surely is the very least you should demand from your marketing material. The real bonus of copywriters is their ability to make sure your message is got across in the most interesting, eye-catching and immediate way. Today copywriters can also bring new skills to the party such as writing SEO friendly copy, which will appeal to the search engines without sounding like it’s been written by a machine and helping you with blogs, e-shots and virals.
So next time your marketing needs words, don’t settle for a misspelt youth, treat your business to a real caffeine boost with some proper copy.